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JUL-AUG 2016

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Page 34 of 67 35 J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 W hen you fi rst see a Gothic castle overlooking the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you may not believe your eyes. The eccentric but impressive Old Capitol Museum not only has an eye-catching exterior, but the site also boasts gor- geous interior architecture and political history exhibits that tell stories as fascinating as the building. Through its many historic museums, Baton Rouge proves it is a city that knows how to deliver a compelling tale. Instead of relaying facts, these capital city museums interact with and engage viewers. From a vibrant Mardi Gras fl oat to a World War II destroyer ship, Baton Rouge's museums captivate visitors with local and national history. OLD CAPITOL MUSEUM Called the Castle on the River for obvious reasons, the Old Capitol Museum seemed just as unusual when it was built in 1852. Instead of mimicking the national Capitol in Washington like so many other statehouses, the architect chose turrets and battlements. Today, it is regarded as one of the nation's most famous works of Gothic Revival architec- ture. And the surprises don't stop there. "You think the outside is really pretty and then when you walk inside and look up, you see the spiral staircase and beautiful stained glass ceiling," said Cathy Juarez, destination content manager for Visit Baton Rouge. "It really is a unique place. It is one of the fi rst places we send groups." Since a new state capitol took over govern- ment operations in 1932, the original building now serves as a museum of political history. The museum's "The Ghost of the Castle" video intro- duces guests to the site with a four-dimensional theater production in which the ghost of Sarah Morgan, a Civil War-era local resident, explains how the building survived war, fi re, scandal, abandonment and an occasional fi stfi ght. Immersive exhibits examine some of the wild stories from Louisiana politics, including contro- versial governor Huey Long. Guided group tours reveal conspiracies surrounding the infamous governor, as well as other juicy stories from the state's political past. LSU RURAL LIFE MUSEUM Turning off one of the capital city's busiest roads, guests suddenly feel as though they have entered a different place in time as they pass pastures and farmland owned by Louisiana State University's agricultural department before they pull into the LSU Rural Life Mu- seum. "It is like you are going to a separate rural town in the middle of the city," said Juarez. "The museum takes you back to the 18th and 19th centuries with wooden houses and artifacts from the time. You walk into the buildings and glimpse how life used to be." The outdoor museum displays 32 historic buildings outfi tted with relevant artifacts from Louisiana's early years as a state. Cajun-style homes, a pioneer cabin, a shotgun house and a dogtrot home are used to tell the state's cultural ancestry. The Working Plantation section and its slave cabins, sick house, schoolhouse and blacksmith shop show how the labor force needed to maintain a 19th-century plantation lived. Group tours help guests navigate the maze of homes, outbuildings and other historic struc- tures. At the Exhibit Barn, hundreds of artifacts common in rural regions of the state help visitors imagine the backbreaking work of farming during the 19th century with farming equipment, tools and utensils. Groups can also enjoy a Louisiana's natural side at the connected Windrush Gardens, with its ancient live oaks, crape myrtles, azaleas and other Southern fl ora. these museums headline a trip to baton rouge Opposite page: Livestock at the LSU Rural Life Museum Special Summer Pricing for Groups Full-day excursions departing daily from two locations: Chama, New Mexico & Antonito, Colorado ∑ Mid-May to Mid-October ∑ Group Friendly Restrooms ∑ Lunch Included ∑ ADA Accessible ∑ Bus Parking *URXS6DOHV2IflFH 1.877.890.2737

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